306 A Dream before Death I
Double right slash, parry, jump left, block, kick, thrust right, twist, roll and slash.
The routine flowed through Aegin like water. He left the sparring block and joined the second line, waiting behind his fellow training partners. Their dark uniform was so familiar, yet felt so out of place now. A part of his past he'd left behind.
He turned to the right where he knew he'd find the instructor watching over them all. As soon as Aegin laid eyes on him, he knew it was his father. The stance familiar, the posture strict and strong. A loyal and capable follower, just as all Ridge Men should be. He appeared smaller than Aegin remembered him though.
No...not smaller, Aegin was just bigger, older. He was no longer the boy who'd been exiled as a failed prodigy. He didn't feel like someone who had failed either. Just then, the instructor turned to glance at Aegin, and Aegin froze at the unfamiliar eyes that he met. Still his father's stern face, but the eyes. Eerie and blue.
Aegin immediately recalled the refugees at the Tribe. The boy with those eyes. No, the Djinn. He'd gone to confront him then...
He couldn't remember, where was he? Aegin looked around, noticing more now that he was really looking. A dream. How was he in a dream? How had he even fallen asleep in such a situation? Unless.
Aegin met those eerie blue eyes with a glare, and a grin stretched across his father's face.
Aegin took a step towards him, the figures in the line fading away.
"Well that's a scary look, Aegin" said the Djinn, still wearing his father's image. Then the Djinn looked contemplative, "Or..."
The scene suddenly changed, dramatically, instead of the dark training room they were in the Warrior's Arena, Aegin holding his spear as he stared across at his opponent, the blue eyes now coming from Talo who spun his trident, "...is it Aegin Bloodthorn?"
The crowd chanted the name around him and Aegin cast his glare towards them, "What is this?"
"You don't seem stupid, I was sure you'd already worked that out," said the Djinn, stabbing the trident into the ground so he could lean against it.
Aegin pointed his spear at the Djinn threateningly, "If it's a dream, how are you manipulating it?"
The Djinn sighed, "Admittedly, it's not really my forte, but you do have one thing wrong. The only thing I did was enter the dream you were having. I may have pushed it in one direction or another, but I'm not forcing you to be here. That's more of the Fox's area of expertise".
Aegin's eyes narrowed, "You're the Djinn, yes? The one that's serving Black Sands? The one creating the Sand Devils?"
"Is that what they're calling them these days?" asked the Djinn, "I suppose it's not a terrible name. Deadly Howlers was a bit of a drag".
Aegin shifted forward, the blade of the spear cutting into the Djinn's cheek. Though he still had Talo's image covering him except for his eyes. Those blue eyes chuckled then looked at Aegin, "We're in a dream. You can't hurt me here. You're really letting down my expectations too. I was under the impression that Vampires were more powerful than this. Were you exiled because you are so weak?" asked the Djinn, his head tilting in genuine curiosity.
Aegin gritted his teeth and refused to answer, "Why are you here?"
The Djinn shrugged, stepping forward as he flicked the spear away. Aegin stumbled in surprise and the Djinn chuckled, "I thought you'd be somewhat of a challenge, but this is just pathetic".
Aegin huffed, then spun the spear's tip towards the Djinn.
His determined expression faltered when the Djinn effortlessly caught the spear's blade between his fingers, "I'm here, Vampire, because my master wished to keep those who are unwelcome out of his territory. You hurt my chances of that when you went after those 'Sand Devils'. And now this gathering of refugees, tribes and wanderers among the Red-Eyed Snakes…how my Master will be thrilled to know".
The Djinn pushed Aegin back, then stepped back, that eerie blue light from his eyes seeming to sparkle and take shape in the air as he did so, "Well, this has been boring, Aegin Bloodthorn. But perhaps this trip is not a complete loss, I'm sure somebody here will dream about something useful. I should not return to my Master empty-handed".
The Djinn vanished, and Aegin suddenly felt his consciousness snap back into the dream. He frowned. No, he had to wake up. If the Djinn was wandering about in dreams, where everyone felt safe and inadvertently revealed their darkest secrets, the Tribe would surely loose much. Aegin couldn't let that happen. Besides, it clearly wasn't the Djinn's body that had just visited Aegin, so surely his physical form was somewhere in reality, vulnerable.
The crowd chanted like thunder, and Aegin turned to face his opponent on the other side of the Arena. They were smaller than he expected���E…Ebony?
Aegin's eyes widened in shock.
Tigin knew he must have been dreaming the moment he saw his father. His old man had never really been the loving kind. In fact, Tigin was more familiar with pain under his father than he was anything else. His father was not a nice man. Probably not suited to be a father in any way. Shouldered with the responsibility anyway, he'd taken it exactly the same way he would a decent punch on occasion – with a bloody grin that promised a whole lot of unfortunate feelings.
But the thing that confirmed that seeing his father was a dream and not some messed up reality, was that Tigin could for once see a smile on his father's face that wasn't full of discontent.
"Did something good happen?" asked Tigin. Crossing his arms over his chest as he placed the firewood on the ground. Where had he gotten it from? Never mind, it was a dream, details didn't tend to matter here.
"The Tribe…the Tribe! They've welcomed me back!"
Tigin raised an eyebrow at the joy in his father's expression.
"And it's all thanks to you, son!" his father grinned, gripping Tigin's upper arms. The pure joy on his father's face stunned Tigin. Enough that he didn't move when his father drew him into a hug.
A hug? Tigin's father never hugged…but this felt different. A…kind of nice different. Tigin found himself winding his own arms around his father.
His father pulled away all too soon, "Ah, I can't believe it! My son! A Tribesman through and through!"
"Me?" asked Tigin.
"Yes, of course! Brave, Resourceful and Protective. It is no wonder the Black Sands took us back!" said his father.
Tigin frowned, "The who?"
His father turned, "The Black Sands! Only the most powerful Tribe in the Northern Hava Rastellan!"
"Right," said Tigin, hesitantly. This was a dream, right? He didn't think his father had ever mentioned the name of his Tribe. And if he was part of the Black Sands then…no, that wasn't possible. This was definitely a dream…definitely.